Monday, October 31, 2011

October Morning

This October morning brings an unusual sight for this time of year, an abundance of snow.
Here the rose garden with the trellis crowned in white while everything else is blanketed in the snow that fell overnight. A strange looking landscape with so many trees still hanging on to their autumn color leaves.

With the early snow comes some interesting patterns in nature with form and color.

The golden yellow of the maple leaves creates a stunning contrast against the fresh white snow and the greys of the distant woodland.

The crab apple that is outside our kitchen window is heavy with fruit, leaves and now snow.

The view from my studio across the field. The oaks with their branches full of russet and burnt orange color leaves the trunks and branches outlined in white by snow.

James was able to get most of the terra cotta pots and garden furniture stored. These remaining benches where on nice evenings, sometimes even in October, we enjoy a glass of wine, can now measure the snow fall amount.
I guess we will be sitting in front of our lovely fireplace in the evening, at least until spring.

Sadly, one of our old apple trees was quite damaged during the storm. This year the tree was in it's glory full of bright red apples and still in leaf. We will get a better look at it in the next few days when the snow begins to melt.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Despite the Snow,We Still Have Flowers

It is October and the snow has already found New England. The garden chores that James and I usually spend late October and November doing, storing garden furniture, terra cotta pots and tools all must be done now. This early storm may leave us with a foot of snow. The arborvitae is wrapped to keep them from becoming a meal for a family of deer, wood is stacked, our boots and gloves brought out into the mud room....far too early.

But here, in our studios there are still flowers in bloom!
Here is the story
told in a few pictures.

Helen Elizabeth Poppies
Elizabeth Johansson
charcoal on paper

Late Summer Hydrangeas
Elizabeth Johansson
oil on panel

Siena:Still Life with Agapanthus (detail)
James Aponovich
oil on canvas

Calla Lillies ( in - progress detail)
James Aponovich
oil on canvas

With the snow just beginning to fall, I took the pruners out to the garden. First I cut an assortment of herbs, thyme, parsley, tarragon, mint, sage and oregano. If the forecast holds true, the herbs will be under a foot of snow by morning. Then, I searched through the garden and found a large handful of remaining flowers, foliage and added a few herbs to create the final bouquet of the season.

When I came in to the kitchen with the herbs James began cooking. We will prepare a warm meal for tonight's dinner and prepare something for tomorrow, a ragu Bolognese I think, for we might just loose our power in this storm.
But we still have flowers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tomatoes.....Gifts From the Garden

Our garden has seen a frost, so the final harvest of tender plants yielded plum tomatoes,peppers, eggplant and swiss chard. One of our favorite ways to prepare plum tomatoes is to roast them. Roasting the tomatoes provides a delicious ingredient as well as creates a wonderful aroma in the kitchen . A duel pleasure.
The first step is to peel, core and seed the tomatoes. This is accomplished by putting the tomatoes in boiling water just long enough to loosen skins, then transferring them to an iced water bath. Cool, core, remove skin then cut in half and remove seeds. ( I like to save the seeds along with the pulp and juice for possible use later). Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
I line a baking sheet with parchment, then arrange the tomatoes cut side up.

The tomatoes are readied for roasting with a generous drizzle of good olive oil, salt and pepper. I like to add an herb such as chopped fresh basil, but in this case I use fresh thyme. What little basil that remained in the garden succumbed to the frost.
The tomatoes go into the oven for several hours, generally 4-5 hours. I check them after about 3 hours and determine whether to continue roasting. I would say on average to plan on about 4 hours roasting time at a low heat or 200 degrees.

The Roasted Tomatoes.....out of the oven at last!

Allow them cool then place them in a bowl with any of the pan drippings and then drizzle additional olive oil ( high quality) coating them. They can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The tomatoes can be served as is, as part of an antipasto plate, in a salad, served on toasted bread as a bruschetta ( with or without cheese). For a simple pasta dish, spaghetti tossed with olive oil,
garlic, red pepper flakes and grated pecorino or parmesan cheese.

A more complex pasta dish would be to prepare a ragu featuring roasted tomato.

Bowl of Pasta with Ragu of Sausage , Porcini, and Roasted Tomatoes

Recipe : Ragu with Sausage, Porcini and Roasted Tomatoes

A ragu is a sauce, a meat sauce found in kitchens and on menus all through Tuscany and Umbria. A ragu might contain sausage meat as this one does but boar, veal , lamb or duck are commonly used as well. This recipe is very adaptable to any ground meat or even a braised meat shredded into bite sized pieces. James and I both are fond of porcini mushrooms, so we add those to this dish, here we use dried that are soaked in water just brought to a boil, turned off and left to stand for about 20 min. , then removed from water ( reserve liquid).

In the meantime finely chop : 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 stalk of celery and 1-2 cloves of garlic.
Heat oil in saute pan, cook onions until translucent, not brown. Remove from pan and reserve.
Saute carrots and celery until they begin to become tender. Add garlic and saute, being careful not to let brown. Remove vegetables from pan and reserve with onions.
Heat oil in pan to saute meat, in this case about 12 oz. of Italian sausage removed from casing. Cook slowly, do not quite brown it. When fully cooked, add chopped porcini mushrooms and cook through. Add 1/4 red wine...hopefully Italian wine! Add one and half to two cups chicken stock ( or other meat stock) along with reserved porcini liquid. Add the roasted tomatoes and reserved juice.
Season with salt and pepper, a bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme ( alternatively, fresh sage can be used).
Simmer on a low heat letting the sauce slowly reduce, adding additional broth a quarter cup at time, as needed. Adjust seasoning. This should simmer for about one and a half to two hours. Toss with pasta. I prefer to use wide pasta like papperdalle. Serve with grated pecorino or parmigiano reggiano cheese.


The best duck ragu we ever ate was at a trattoria, La Porta, in Tuscany in the medieval village of Monticchiello that looks over the Val d'Orcia. It was heavenly yet balanced with an earthy richness. At La Porta the duck ragu is served over the regional pasta called pici.